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Victor Grazzi, La Villa des Cent regards [The Castle with 100 views]

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100 Rue de la Roqueterière, Montpellier (Hérault, Occitanie) 34090 France

About the Artist/Site

Grazzi, a mason, was born in Italy’s Lombardy region. He married a local girl named Ida Boldoni in 1921, but with the burgeoning fascist movement led by Mussolini taking over his native land, the couple moved to France that next year, first living in the Isère department in the far eastern part of the country. Continuing his work as a mason in France, he was an early adopter of the use of reinforced concrete, having largely learned by taking a correspondence course from the Academy of Reinforced Concrete in Rome.

Grazzi and his wife later moved down to Aiguelonge, a neighborhood at that time on the outskirts of Montpellier, a major city located some ten kilometers (six miles) inland from the Mediterranean Sea in Occitanie. In 1950, the couple, working side by side, began constructing a home, but, shockingly, Ida died only four years later. Still relatively young at 58 years old, Grazzi redoubled his efforts on the house to pay homage to his wife and work through his grief. Adding crenelated towers, turrets, gates, spires, arches, and one hundred apertures that would provide different views from and of the construction, the entire work was created out of reinforced concrete and enhanced with found objects that he brought home from the dump. Grazzi used the construction to display his skills with his chosen material, and turned the house into a medieval-style chateau “Villa” on which he worked for a total of twenty years. Referencing Montpellier’s proximity to the sea, the property also sports a lighthouse, a cement anchor, and other marine-themed subjects; there are also sculptures of people and animals on the grounds, which themselves were planted with grapes that Grazzi would make into wine with his own wine press.

Entering the hospital for a simple benign surgery in 1970, leaving his tools ready to work with when he returned a few days later, he died there, unexpectedly. The house and property were left unattended, becoming a refuge for lovers and teenagers, and, as might be expected, suffered significant destruction and vandalism. Ultimately the property passed to the city, presumably for nonpayment of taxes, and in 1982 the municipal authorities erected a fence around it in order to prevent further damage although, at the same time, it was said that they were also considering demolition. However, in 2005 the city sold the property to Montpellier gallerist and editor Michel Fressoz, who partially restored it, transforming it into a site for cultural activities and events. Now, Fressoz, supported by the local branch of the national COBATY association of builders and urban planners along with the local secondary school Leonardo da Vinci, organize an active program of exhibitions, conferences, workshops, book presentations, and concerts. The Villa de Cent Regards is now proudly claimed as part of the cultural patrimony of the city of Montpellier.

~Jo Farb Hernández



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Visiting Information

100 Rue de la Roqueterière, Montpellier (Hérault, Occitanie) 34090 France

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